MORE than 50,000 women in Oxfordshire did not attend their last smear test, NHS figures show.

The take-up rate for cervical screenings has fallen for the sixth consecutive year.

Only 70.7 per cent of the 190,500 women who were due a smear test before the end of March attended an appointment.

This means around 55,900 women missed out on the 'life-saving' programme.

Cancer charities have said the 'plummeting' attendance rate in England is enormously worrying.

Attendance across England has also fallen for the fourth year in a row, reaching 71.4 per cent last year.

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: "These statistics are highly frustrating and, coupled with rising cervical cancer diagnoses, an enormous worry.

Cervical screening is a test that looks for changes in the cells of the cervix which could develop into cancer.

Women aged between 25 and 49 are invited for a screening every three years, while those aged 50 to 64 attend every five years.

If they do not have a test within six months of their latest invitation they are counted as not having attended.

In Oxfordshire, the younger age group were significantly less likely to be up to date with their tests.

Professor Anne Mackie, director of screening at Public Health England said the declining take-up rate was 'of real concern'.

She continued: "We know that for some women worries about embarrassment or discomfort can put them off.

"If they are concerned they can ask a GP or practice nurse who can explain what's involved and help them make a choice about screening.

"We're supporting the NHS to reach more women by raising awareness about the test, and early next year we're launching a Be Clear on Cancer campaign focusing on the importance of cervical screening."